This weekend we took the campervan to the Brecon Beacons for a couple of nights – just to test all the repairs we made over the winter. I know I write a lot about Snowdonia and Cornwall and if you follow this blog you’ll know that many of my favourite places are wild, lonely and close to the sea, but there’s another side to my landscape yearnings and it’s right here in Breconshire. I took the photograph from the campsite in Pencelli, just up the road from Buckland Hill. It was so clear I was completely foxed for a while as I tried to find my way around a sky unexpectedly full of thousands of visible and perhaps millions of invisible stars – so numerous and so beautiful they felt like a kind of blessing. I know it’s fanciful but sometimes I can almost hear them singing an ethereal Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis transposed many octaves upwards. I guess I hear them through my heart. You might think that’s all a load of spam in allium but this place has that kind of effect on me. It excites me to know that J R R Tolkien stayed for a time in the village of Talybont, immediately below Buckland Hill – while he was writing “Lord of the Rings”.
The (definitely non politically correct) smell of wood fires never smells sweeter and more homely than here between the river Usk and the hills and peaks like Pen y Fan. The Buckland of the saga jumps off the page in the narrow strip of small farms between the River and the accompanying Monmouth and Brecon Canal under the shadow of the misty mountain. The sounds of sheep, and the early spring birdsong all add to the music. I saw my first kingfisher here many years ago. The Mallard in their breeding plumage never looked more incandescent and for a few hours, instead of walking head down looking for plants I could have leaned on a gate and just gorged on the sounds. Even as we drove towards Abergavenny we spotted a Kestrel hunting the hedge alongside the road as well as a Buzzard and a red Kite. The three raptors were just a taster of the riches to come. This landscape is far closer to my personal psychogeography than all my other post industrial hotspots, roaring seas and austere mountains. Celandines in abundance announced that Spring really is here and we drank pints of magic to celebrate in the local pub.
Finding any kind of lyrical inspiration these days, demands we mine it from granite with our bare hands. Every dark hole has a poet at the bottom of it.